When trying to eat for metabolic health, you may think that bread is off-limits. After all, bread is usually high in carbs that can spike your blood sugar.
Breads made with white flour tend to have the greatest glucose impact. These refined grains are stripped of the fibers that slow the release of glucose into your bloodstream, which causes your blood sugar levels to soar and then crash, raising your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
While whole-grain breads contain more fiber, they are still made with refined flour and can also raise your blood sugar. Plus, many loaves are made with added sugars and refined seed oils, both of which may trigger inflammation and take a toll on your metabolic health.
Fortunately, today there are many low-carb bread options available, but some are better than others. To help you score the healthiest slices, we created some simple guidelines and sorted through the labels to find the best brands.
Just because a food is low in carbs doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Some low-carb breads may contain ingredients that negatively impact metabolic health. When shopping, scan labels and look for these factors:
1. Added sugars Some brands sweeten their low-carb loaves. Although added sugars can come in many different forms—including cane sugar, maple syrup, honey, and fruit juice—all can cause your blood glucose to rise quickly. Choose loaves with no more than 1 gram of added sugars per slice—ideally even less.
2. Artificial sweeteners Aspartame, saccharin, and other artificial sweeteners deliver sweetness without the calories. But they may still affect how your body processes glucose and insulin and have adverse long-term effects. Even more worrisome is that some research links certain artificial sweeteners with greater cancer risk. Opt for natural sweeteners such as stevia, monk fruit, allulose, and yacon syrup, which don’t affect your blood sugar like regular sugar and may even have beneficial health effects.
3. Refined oils Refined seed oils, such as canola and soy, are highly processed. They’re often heated to extremely high temperatures or treated with chemicals, both of which can deplete their nutrients. These oils are also high in omega-6 fats, and research suggests that consuming a diet high in these fats (and low in their heart-healthy counterpart, omega-3 fats) can cause inflammation in the body.
4. Additives Some low-carb breads have lengthy ingredients lists that include things like chicory root and inulin (which add fiber), mono- and diglycerides, guar and xanthan gums, and sorbic acid (which act as preservatives). These may cause digestive issues, particularly when eaten in high amounts.
5. Carbs and Fiber When it comes to carbs and blood sugar, lower is better. A slice of a popular white bread contains 22 grams of carbs, while our low-carb picks have 1.5 to 15 grams per piece. Also, pay attention to the fiber content, as high-fiber foods can help regulate blood sugar, promote gut health, and decrease inflammation. Levels advisor Dr. Robert Lustig recommends seeking out foods with a total carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio of less than five to one.
Note that some brands also highlight their “net carbs” (total number of carbs minus fiber); because the body can’t break down the carbs from fiber, this indicates the carbs that affect blood sugar. The relationship between net carbs and blood sugar rise is debated and depends on the type of fiber and sugar alcohols the food contains, so following Dr. Lustig’s target on total carbs is the best bet.
6. Superfoods Some brands bake their breads with seeds such as flax and chia seeds, which serve up extra fiber, healthy fats, and micronutrients. Others use vegetables such as cauliflower to add substance and nutrition to their loaves.
6 Low-Carb Breads to Try
When it comes to bread products, these are among the best we’ve found. Remember that glycemic response depends on the components of your entire meal, so what you eat with bread matters. Stack your slices with protein, fat, and fiber to help curb a rise in glucose.
Flaxseed, arrowroot and almond flour, and almond butter give this bread its nutty, sweet flavor. At only 8 grams of carbs per slice, it’s one of the lowest-carb options on the market. Because the loaf doesn’t contain preservatives, store this bread in the fridge or freezer.
Per serving (1 slice): 110 calories, 6 g fat (0.5 g sat), 8 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 4 g protein, 180 mg sodium
Price: $9.99* for a 16-ounce loaf
Sprouted grains are whole grain seeds that are harvested just as they start to grow plants. This makes them easier to digest than regular grains and increases certain nutrients, such as folate, iron, zinc, and magnesium. This loaf is made from sprouted grains, including wheat, lentils, millet, barley, soy, and spelt. Its dense, chewy texture works well in open-faced sandwiches and avocado toast.
Per serving (1 slice): 80 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g sat), 15 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 5 g protein, 75 mg sodium
Price: $6.49 for a 24-ounce loaf
Many keto breads are made with fillers and additives to give them a fluffy texture, but this organic bread is made with six simple ingredients: water, almond flour, eggs, butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and baking soda. The catch: At $14.50 a loaf, it’s not cheap. Use sparingly as a treat.
Per serving (1 slice): 140 calories, 12 g fat (5 g sat), 1 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 8 g protein, 140 mg sodium
Price: $14.50 for 1 one-pound loaf
Made from almond flour, this bread mix is free of gluten, dairy, and additives. Just add eggs, unrefined oil, vinegar, and water. Because you bake it yourself, you can form the dough into a loaf, rolls, or flatbread.
Per serving (1 slice of baked bread, or 25g of dry mix): 120 calories, 7 g fat (0.5 g sat), 12 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 3 g protein, 200 mg sodium
Price: $8.69 for a 10.4-ounce box of baking mix
You’d never guess this soft bread is both grain-free and low-carb. The main ingredients are almond flour, eggs, ground flax, and coconut flour. It also contains psyllium seed husk for added fiber.
Per serving (2 slices): 180 calories, 13 g fat (2 g sat), 12 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 7 g protein, 450 mg sodium
Price: $11.99 for an 18.3-ounce loaf
Swap your usual bun or slices for these veggie-packed thins. They’re made with cauliflower and eggs, so they’re high in fiber and protein while low in carbs and calories. They don’t have the same doughy consistency as bread, but they have a pleasant savory flavor and work well to hold your favorite sandwich ingredients.
Per serving (2 pieces, original flavor): 100 calories, 5 g fat (3 g sat), 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 9 g protein, 240 mg sodium
Price: $7.99 for 6 sandwich thins
Plus, 2 Low-Carb Bread Recipes to Try
This fluffy bread is made with only four ingredients: eggs, cream cheese, cream of tartar, and salt. Each piece is only 35 calories and contains less than half a gram of carbs and two grams of protein. You can use this bread for sandwiches, quesadillas, and even a pizza crust.
This recipe swaps white flour for finely ground almonds or almond flour. Almonds are high in protein and fiber, so the net carbs are only 7 grams per slice. Baking powder is used instead of yeast in this quick bread, so it only takes about 40 minutes to make from start to finish.
*The prices in this article reflect those listed by the retailer at the time of publication. Prices and local store availability may vary.
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